What will we do to make Jisha’s sacrifice worthwhile?
In 2012 when we heard the terrifying news that a young woman was brutally raped, mutilated and murdered in Delhi, it was easy to brush it off as cruelties of thugs in a big city. It was far away in Delhi anyway. It was easy to say 'this will never happen in our state'.
I remember speaking to our students, called to discuss the Nirbhaya case. "We cannot feel complacent because this crime happened somewhere far away. Today it is our responsibility to take steps to make sure this doesn't happen in our vicinity". There was a lot of hue and cry across the nation and even around the world. The culprits were booked and they went to jail. BBC brought out a film that the government chose to ban, rather than use it to acknowledge and call for a social change – a cure for a cancer that is spreading in our young minds. As time went by, we forgot Jyothi Singh and her sacrifice.
We never changed. We pretended it is not going to happen again. But the cancer was spreading across country. The decadent, festered, evil mind of another young man surfaced at a faraway place in 2016.
It happened right here, in the heartland of little Kerala!!
Not in a remote village ….
Not in the dark side of a city ….
Not at midnight when she was returning from a night club …
Not when she was clad in tight jeans and revealing clothes …
Not while she was roaming around with a boyfriend …
Not in a running bus on streets of a busy city ….
NO, NO, NO… That was not where it happened!
In her own home, where she was resting ….
Right in her own home, with good people living nearby …
In broad day light when all the good people were awake …
In the well-to-do, middle-class, educated community of Perumbavoor, Kerala.
It happened in our “God’s own country”
In a State which boasts of 100% literacy!
In a State which takes pride in social justice and social security!
In the State of Kerala where women are supposed to be liberated!
The last moments – The horrific suffering
She was raped and mutilated and killed. It is horrifying to read what happened, and it is still more horrifying to write what that man did to her. But I should write. I should not keep quiet. I need to write. Because, more is at stake than ever, for our society, our women, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our wives – human race itself.
I really don't know the extent of her suffering before her last breath.
Was she mutilated and stabbed before she was raped?
Was she killed and then raped and mutilated?
Was she conscious enough to know the pain as the sharp knife pierced her genitals?
Could she scream when she was attacked?
How much did she struggle and fight back?
How helpless did she feel under the grip of the senseless monster?
How scared was she, as evil looked down at her?
What was she thinking in those last moments?
Did she lose consciousness before she gave up?
What did he do once he knew that she was unconscious?
When did he let go and walk off with blood on his hands?
Was she breathing at that point when she was alone?
Could she have been saved if somebody knew at that time?
I don't know. I tread to think. I shiver. My eyes are tearing up!
It could have happened to anybody else whom I know. I have family in Perumbavoor, living there for more than half a century. Just because I don't know Jisha doesn't reduce the revulsion and shock and the sense of helplessness!
She was targeted because she was a woman.
It didn’t matter if she was a Dalit,
It didn’t matter if she was a Law student.
It didn’t matter if she lived under a flimsy thatched roof in a make-shift hut.
It didn’t matter what religion she believed in.
It didn’t matter which political affiliation she had.
It didn’t even matter what age she was.
The only criterion was her sex. She was considered weak and defenseless!
My anger is at the society that looks down on woman. My anger is at the family that tells woman to suffer silently. My anger is at the parents that bring up boys to treat women like dirt.
In our society,
A woman is a weakling
A woman cannot defend herself
A woman cannot raise her voice
A woman cannot make her own choices
A woman is asked to look down while walking
A woman has to be guarded by a man to be safe
A woman is raised up with a sense of fear and shame
A woman cannot feel secure on the streets after sun-down,
A woman cannot feel safe even in daylight in a deserted by-lane
This attitude has to change.
Why did he do it?
He is a criminal, he is a pervert, and he is a man whose thinking has been polluted and skewed. He might have been abused as a child, his young mind might have been traumatized with unspeakable cruelties, he might have been exposed to women being brutalized, his childhood may have been full of negative influences, and he must have watched numerous pictures and videos that portrayed sadism. This is not uncommon in our society where any type of information is available with a touch on the screen. Continuous exposure makes you create reality based on what you see. When positive influences don’t nullify those negativities, the dark reality tarries on and spreads through the mind like a cancer. Such minds are prone to act out their fantasies – having lost the ability to understand the consequences. Their conscience is numb and their ability to discern right from wrong is long lost. They rise to inflict destruction on their prey. And the society has to suffer!
A balanced person cannot do cruelty that harms another human being. A man with self-respect will not be disrespectful to others. A man with self-esteem will not humiliate another person. But none of us are perfect. We all have scars on our mind, hurts from others. But mind is so resilient to recover and go on. We keep getting hurt in life and we have our little nuances in behavior because of that. We still survive in a complex society with healthy relationships. But it is a different case when the mental wound becomes deeply infested sore and destroys the mind totally. In that state, the person is driven by sadistic, anarchist, evil thoughts. He is filled with hatred and is restless till he acts out. That is a mind to be dreaded.
What such a mind needs is a mental transformation. A cure for his sick mind. A healing of the deep, festering trauma within. If left to himself, he will continue to inflict unbearable pain and destruction on others around him. He will become more bold and will search out victims. Their place is behind bars till they can be restored to a healthy mind.
That brings us to the point, that this monster may not be an isolated case. There could be persons who are sitting next to us with similar thinking. The demon within is just waiting to act out in an apt situation, an isolated surrounding, a suitable time!
A needed change in thinking
It is important that boys are taught early on in life about respecting women. That starts with respecting their mother and sisters. A father who respects his child's mother is the first and best lesson for a son. He needs to see that respectful behavior day-in and day-out. Disrespecting a woman, making comments that make her uncomfortable, lewd looks that invades her privacy, touch that violates her person should not be tolerated.
It is a total change of mind that is needed in our hierarchical, patriarchal society that has practiced man's dominance for thousands of years. Society does not progress with the parochial mindset of looking down on women. We have to admit and accept that times have changed. It is no more a man's world. It will never be again! It is equally a woman's world. Women will be found now onwards in all sorts of places in society - pilots on fighter planes, drivers on public buses, engineers on high rise buildings, CEOs of corporations – places considered unattainable in the past.
This also means women should have the freedom to move around without fear any time, any place, alone or in company of anybody whom they choose, dress the way they feel to express themselves, take up any task they believe they can, study and learn as much as they want.
In our community, if a young woman is not married off by age 22 or 23 or at the most 25, eye-brows go up. The constant barrage of questions put forward with a false sense of sympathy is, "Couldn't you find a good boy?" No boy is asked this question. That is so depressing to the girls and their parents. Young women who want to be independent hate this question from their relatives and extended family. Some of them refuse to come to family or social gathering because of this annoying question. This question implies that a girl has to be under the care of a man; else she is insecure, useless, unwanted. NO. A woman can choose to marry or not. It is not like the 20th century or before where woman was under the care of man. Now she has the education, the economic independence to have a good life herself. She can be assertive.
Leave her alone! Let her be herself. Prepare her to have an independent, successful, fulfilling safe life in the society.
Henceforth, every girl child should be taught to stand up for herself, look other people in the eyes, react if a man makes her uncomfortable through his looks, comments, touch. She should be taught to defend herself without fear.
And the teenage girls, the young women, middle aged and elderly ladies who grew up listening to words of submission should consciously learn to assert themselves - within their families first and then outside. It is time, our society changed. It has to happen. It should. Now!
It is the men who need to change. The accepted male dominance they see in their families should change. The perverted and totally distorted image of sexuality and femininity portrayed by the internet images should not determine their attitudes.
We cannot wait anymore.
Women have to rise up and men need to rise up alongside. This is not about women alone. This is about us as a society. It is our safety that is at risk. Safety of those whom we love and care about! Our sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, nieces, friends, neighbors, colleagues … everyone whom we care about!
There has to be specific mandatory classes in schools, colleges and workplaces that can help develop balanced attitudes towards women. This has to be reinforced with positive images they see in the campus, at home, workplace, market place and everywhere else in society. A generational change in thinking is needed.
There should never be another woman who has to suffer like Jisha in our society! It is a shame! We have to erase that shame and regain our dignity through better treatment of our fellow human beings.
Let us do it for all women, one woman at a time! That is what we can do for Jisha!
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